Welcome to our official Wanderlust Exchange blog, where we love to share heartwarming stories of cultural exchange and personal growth. Today, we bring you a captivating tale of connection and cultural immersion: the story of Azahara, a spirited au pair from Spain, and her journey with Ms. M's family in Changchun.
This enchanting narrative unfolds with Azahara embarking on an extraordinary journey, facilitated by Wanderlust Exchange, to the vibrant city of Changchun. What awaited her there was not just a homestay experience but a deep, familial bond that transcended cultural and linguistic barriers.
1. The Beginning of the Story: Love at First Sight
Azahara, a 25-year-old girl from Spain, is not just fluent in English but is also learning German and Mandarin. She has a wide range of interests, excelling in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and beach volleyball. With her cheerful and patient personality, Azahara chose to come to China as an au pair driven by her passion for Chinese culture and curiosity about its language, cuisine, and music.
"I hope to share my love for Chinese culture with the children and explore new cultural worlds together," Azahara explained about her motivation to become an au pair in China.
In a letter to her prospective host family, Azahara wrote, "I feel incredibly honored that you would consider me, and I am looking forward to meeting you and learning more about you. My hobbies include reading, watching movies and TV shows, and occasionally strolling by the seaside. I've been playing volleyball for 9 years, so... I can teach you if you're interested, haha. I also practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have a blue belt."
The other protagonist of our story, Ms. M's family, resides in the scenic and culturally rich city of Changchun, Jilin, China. Ms. M, known for her cheerful and talkative nature, mentioned in her application:
"My family includes a lovely daughter who is kind and can communicate entirely in English, so there's no need to worry about communication issues with the au pair. We travel several times a year and are open to choosing destinations based on the au pair's preferences, allowing her and my daughter to explore different cultures together. We hope the au pair joining our family is cheerful and respects cultural differences."
"It’s not right to say that I chose this family; I feel, on the contrary, that they chose me!" Azahara responded when asked why she chose Ms. M's family.
Azahara and Ms. M's family had a video interview in October 2023. Ms. M was looking for someone to accompany her child, and she felt that Azahara, with her loving nature, would be the perfect playmate for her daughter.
"Aza is a kind and polite girl, and my child is emotionally very attached to her," Ms. M commented, appreciating Azahara's influence on her family.
2. Meeting and Getting to Know Each Other
On November 14, 2023, Azahara arrived at Changchun Longjia International Airport. Wendy, Ms. M's daughter, had eagerly prepared a heartfelt piece of artwork to express her warm welcome for Azahara. Ms. M, equally enthusiastic, awaited Azahara's arrival with beautiful flowers.
Knowing Azahara was from Spain, Ms. M was particularly concerned about her adapting to Changchun's cold climate. She had discussed this with Azahara beforehand and made sure to bring a warm blanket and winter clothes to the airport to ensure Azahara wouldn't feel cold.
During the car ride home, Ms. M and Azahara chatted about the beautiful scenery and culture of Spain. This warm conversation made Azahara feel welcomed and comfortable in this new city. Her first interaction with Wendy revolved around the theme of flowers, quickly leading to a blossoming "sisterly" bond between them.
The following day, considering Azahara’s adjustment to the new environment, Ms. M arranged a supermarket trip together, introducing her to winter essentials. As they shopped, not only did they pick necessary items, but they also selected local, heartwarming ingredients to ensure Azahara stayed warm and comfortable during the cold season.
For Ms. M, picking up Azahara and shopping were not just acts of warm reception for the new au pair but also ways to make her feel at home in the cold, northern city of Changchun. The language differences inevitably led to some initial adjustments and misunderstandings, common in au pair programs.
However, Ms. M’s family showed immense tolerance and care, actively inviting Azahara to be part of the family and making her feel a true sense of warmth and belonging. The family elders were particularly attentive to Azahara, often anxious if she ate too little and going out of their way to encourage her to eat more and ensure her clothing was adequate for the cold.
Talking about cultural differences, Azahara expressed her surprise:
"We never had conflicts over cultural issues! Being with them, I can clearly express myself, and whenever I don’t understand something, I just have to ask, and they explain patiently, always with smiles and laughter. It’s very comfortable to express myself without any reservations."
Facing and sincerely addressing all issues and differences, rather than fearing or avoiding them, is crucial for both the au pair and the host family.
To further care for Azahara, Ms. M thoughtfully prepared a fruit card, allowing her to freely choose her favorite fruits, a gesture that made Azahara feel warm and loved in a foreign land. An amusing incident occurred when Wendy’s grandmother joined a video call with Azahara’s mother, filling the conversation with laughter despite the language barrier, as they used gestures and various methods to show their care and greetings.
Azahara joyfully said, "My impression here is that everything is so fresh and different, and you must adapt quickly to the pace of life here!" When Wendy and Azahara decided to go skiing, Ms. M had everything prepared in advance. She bought ski tickets, arranged for a professional instructor, and ensured Azahara had the proper gear.
During skiing, Azahara showed her adventurous side, not content with just the small and medium slopes, she daringly attempted the large slope, prompting the instructor to exclaim, "Be careful!" Despite a few thrilling falls, Azahara was safe, and this joyful skiing experience became a fond topic in the family’s daily conversations.
These series of caring gestures and experiences made Azahara feel the warmth and love in this distant land.
3. Meeting and Cherishing Each Other
“Azahara is truly an exceptional young woman, and her polite manners have made her deeply loved by our entire family,” Ms. M described fondly.
After school, Wendy, the family’s daughter, always looked forward to spending time with Azahara, hoping she would be there to share any food or drink.
“There was this one time, it was cold, and Azahara didn't want to eat ice cream. I didn’t offer it to her, but then my daughter got upset with me for not giving Azahara any. She insisted on feeding Azahara the ice cream herself. Despite the cold, Azahara ate it just not to disappoint her. It was such a mix of laughter and tears for me!” Ms. M shared with a chuckle.
“Aza is incredibly thoughtful and mature. We are all so comforted by her presence.”
Azahara was always there for Wendy, accompanying her to and from school every day, even attending extracurricular classes with her.
Ms. M said, “Azahara expressed that she didn’t want to be a burden on the family, but in reality, she has become an integral part of it. We all warmly welcome her.”
When Azahara became aware of her English accent and learned that Ms. M wanted her to teach Wendy some Spanish, she showed great dedication. She humbly sought advice from Wendy's English teacher on teaching methods and materials, expressing concerns about her teaching ability.
However, Ms. M reassured her, “I don’t need you to teach Wendy like a formal teacher. It will be enough if, at the end of your year as an au pair, when Wendy misses you and calls you, she can tell you in Spanish how much she misses you.”
Although the WE Exchange Center provided Mandarin classes, Ms. M went the extra mile to buy additional Mandarin learning materials for Azahara to help her learn more effectively, allowing her to study and improve anytime.
The story of Ms. M's family and Azahara continues, filled with gratitude for this unique au pair experience and anticipation for more beautiful moments to come. This warm and inclusive family, along with Azahara, a kind and diligent au pair, together weave an inspiring narrative.
In their daily life, Azahara's kindness and adaptability have endeared her to the family, especially to Wendy, who eagerly looks forward to Azahara's company. Even when faced with language barriers, Azahara's use of body language and enthusiastic participation make communication easy and enjoyable.
These small stories highlight the essence of the au pair program, a cultural exchange that not only enhances children's language skills but also fosters their independence, sense of responsibility, and global awareness. The family, through the inclusion of an au pair, experiences the charm of cultural diversity and builds deep friendships.
"My impression here is that everything is so fresh and different. It’s wonderful here!" — Au Pair Azahara 🥰
If you're interested in learning more about Chinese culture and experiencing it firsthand by coming to China, please don't hesitate to reach out to Wanderlust. We're here to help you embark on your own incredible journey of cultural exchange and discovery.
Wanderlust Exchange encourages the exploration of self-awareness and personal development , and fostering of global understanding. We desire to bridge cultural divide and contribute to build the world with more trust, understanding and diversity among all.